Can You Really Isolate a Muscle?

Have you ever gone to the gym and said, “IT’S CHEST DAY!” I have. Sorry for admitting that. Haha! People tend to gravitate towards the typical bodybuilding programs whether they’re bodybuilders or not: chest and triceps, back and biceps, quads, hamstrings, and more arms. This is called an isolation program. But can you really isolate a muscle? Lets drop some knowledge bombs on this myth using everyone’s favorite “chest” exercise. Here we go!

The bench press is actually a very complex movement. It does not just involve your pectoralis major, but it requires your whole body to work as one. As the bar is decelerating towards your shirt, the scapulae (shoulder blades) are retracting using your lats, rhomboids, and other little posterior muscles to control the bar path. Now, don’t forget your lower body. As the bar is coming down, your feet should be positioned on the floor slightly behind your knee activating your quadriceps and preventing energy leaks from extraneous movement. As you push the bar away from you, your glutes will engage from hip extension and your latissimus dorsi (aka lats) will allow your arms to go into transverse extension (aka horizontal abduction). Take a look at the video below to see the movement. So clearly there’s a lot more involved in a strong bench press than just your chest.

So what about the squat, deadlift, or overhead press? Every exercise you do involves multiple muscles working together. You physically can not ever isolate a muscle since there are stabilizers and synergists in everything, even a simple bicep curl. 

Sorry everyone, I just geeked out for a quick second. But I love this stuff.